VOTE 20

At Least 8 Million Americans Have Already Voted, Could Smash Records For Voter Turnout

Some 72 million mail ballots have already been requested. The 2020 election could have the highest voter turnout in more than a century.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to supporters at the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America's training center, October 8, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to supporters at the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America's training center, October 8, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

At least 8 million Americans have voted in the 2020 general election as of midday October 9, according to the U.S. Elections Project, which is tracking early vote totals in real time.

With 25 days until the election finishes on November 3, that’s an unprecedented rate of voting, thanks to an incredibly high-stakes election and the substantial increase in voting by mail due to the ongoing pandemic.

“We’ve never seen this many people voting so far ahead of an election,” said project lead Michael McDonald of the University of Florida to Reuters.

McDonald predicts a record turnout of about 150 million voters this year, which would amount to 65% of eligible voters—the highest potential turnout in more than a century. According to states that are reporting such data, U.S. voters have requested a total of 72,524,278 mail ballots already.

“People cast their ballots when they make up their minds, and we know that many people made up their minds long ago and already have a judgment about Trump,” McDonald said, describing early voting totals in some battleground states as “just nuts.”

He added: “Every piece of data suggests very high turnout for this election. I think that’s just a given.”

As of October 6, the Elections Project reported that the early vote total was more than 50 times what it was at this time in 2016.

Tom Bonier, a data consultant for Democratic firms who is CEO of TargetSmart, similarly tracks the early vote. He tweeted this week that “the bottom line [is that] young voters are voting in record numbers at this point, and are showing an intensity and engagement that is unprecedented.”

That follows a precedent set during the 2018 midterms, when some 53% of eligible Americans voted—the highest turnout in a midterm election in a century. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “voter turnout went up among all voting age and major racial and ethnic groups.” That election saw a “blue wave” of Democrats winning, with the party’s candidates winning more seats in the House of Representatives than either party had in decades. (In fact, some political analysts have said a more accurate phrase for the victories is “blue tsunami.”)

The 2018 midterms brought in the most diverse class of congressional representatives in American history: more women, more people of color, and more young people, lowering the average age in Congress by ten years.

Analysts expect similar outcomes this year: FiveThirtyEight estimates that Democrats are “clearly favored” to keep majority control of the House, and even “slightly favored” to flip the Senate — which would be a huge victory for a party that has dealt with the blockade that is the Republican-controlled Senate led by Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for five long years.

Census data shows that about 55.5% of eligible voters, or 138 million Americans, voted in the 2016 election, down from 57.1% in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected the first Black president of the United States. The 4.4 million Obama voters who stayed home in 2016 no doubt cost Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton some crucial electoral votes — and given that the election hinged on some 80,000 votes in three battleground states, a record turnout in 2020 could make all the difference for Dem nominee Joe Biden. 

While Americans can already early vote in person or by mail in several states, there’s also still time to register to vote in a majority of states. Find out your state’s deadline here and additional voting information here at Vote.org.